The main point of Norman Bowie’s argument is focused on the belief that business has no special obligation to preserve the environment. The only duty that business has is to obey the provisions of the law. On the other hand, he asserted that business has the moral obligation of not interfering in political processes when it comes to legislation that concerns the environment. Bowie also gave attention to the importance of externality. He described externality as the costs or benefits that emerged within business operations but these are not determined in the price of goods and services. An example of externality could be observed in selling environmentally-friendly products because most consumers do not patronize it. Most of them would go after less expensive products and convenience. As such, this poses as a cost for both consumers and the business. Business operates in order to gain profit and they could do so by addressing the needs and desires of the market. In line with this, he emphasized that the business sector do not have to deal with environmental concerns that are beyond the law because these are not within their area of responsibility (Bowie 485-500). Bowie was able to articulately present his claim but he did not make a convincing argument because he did not give substantial and justifiable reasons as to why business has no responsibility for environmental concerns that are not included in the law.
Bowie perceived people as consumers that have preferences that the business address and acquire profit from. Nevertheless, Sagoff made a distinction between consumers and citizens. He deemed that people should be classified in to these categories to be able to represent the different goals and characteristics that they have toward the society as a whole. Sagoff elaborated that consumers could be regarded as people who are just after a good life. On the other hand, citizens are characterized as people who have the objective of inflicting and promoting the good of the society. Citizens could be able to do this by actively participating in political processes. He made this distinction in order to point out that the value given to products and the capability of people to pay is only secondary because there are things like the welfare of the society that must be give due importance.
The claim of Bowie goes against the argument of Sagoff because the latter believed that goals should not be merely attributed to individual satisfaction as they have historical and common roots that should also be considered. In this sense, the idea of goals is more than the interest of an individual, which is not similar with Bowie’s claim because he looked at public values in quantifiable terms that could be identified through cost-benefit analysis and preferences. Sagoff gave importance to environmental goals as he deemed that this represent the public values that attribute essentialness to people’s identity. Furthermore, he highlighted that people value ethical issues more rather than costs and benefits.
Bowie and Sagoff have conflicting views but they could still be related. Bowie could still be able to accommodate Sagoff’s definition of citizens through his belief that people could be empowered by restricting business from intervening in political processes about environmental legislation. Lastly, Bowie could also aid in further empowering the citizens by implementing his claim that business should educate their consumers about their operations especially those that involve environmental issues (Bowie 491-493).
Bowie, Norman. “Morality, Money, and Motor Cars.”